Convict the World (John 16)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Divine Service 3
  • Hymns: LSB #790, 556, 702, 785

Theme Verse

And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11)

Sermon Text


Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Our world is filled with conviction. Conviction of crimes committed. (Those horrible criminals.) Conviction that there is only one baseball team to cheer for. (Go Cardinals!) Conviction that there is only one Lord and Savior. (Our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.)

Conviction can take many forms in this world. Conviction is what the Holy Spirit, the Helper, came into the world to do. He came to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.[1]

Sin - unbelief

"He will convict the world … concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me."[2] The one unforgivable sin is unbelief, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.[3] "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."[4] The Holy Spirit convicts the world because it doesn't want to believe.

The issue with the world's unbelief is that the evidence is right in front of it. The world doesn't want to acknowledge it because that would require being held accountable to the God found in the evidence. The world doesn't want anyone or anything to be able to hold it accountable. So the Holy Spirit, the Helper, comes to convict the world of its sin so that it will see who it is that holds them accountable.

The world is accountable to Him who "is awesome in His deeds toward the children of men."[5] It doesn't matter about the faithfulness of the recipient. God is awesome in His deeds toward all the children of men. "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."[6] "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above."[7] God takes care of everyone. He looks out for everyone. Whether they believe in Him or not.

This awesome care of His creation continues on after this life. "There will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust."[8] And this is where the world has the most trouble. This resurrection gives the eternal reward to everyone, according to their deeds in this life.[9] This resurrection is where the dreaded accountability is fulfilled. Those who have been faithful to Christ will receive everlasting life in the new Jerusalem.[10] Those who have been unfaithful will receive everlasting condemnation in the lake of fire.[11] The world doesn't want this.

Why? Unlike the world, "there is no variation or shadow due to change" in God.[12] "I the LORD do not change."[13] "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."[14] "His righteousness endures forever."[15]

Righteousness - Jesus going to the Father

The Holy Spirit "will convict the world … concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer."[16] Jesus promises that the Helper will come and be for your advantage.[17] The Helper will be a good addition to your life.

In fact, the Holy Spirit is "the Lord and giver of life."[18] Only through the Holy Spirit can you have the everlasting life that Jesus promises.[19] Therefore we can sing, "Great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."[20] The Holy Spirit came into you when you were baptized into Christ.[21]

The Holy Spirit, through His indwelling, prompts you to be more like God. After all, that is what the sinful nature has wanted from the beginning.[22] That's why your favorite god is yourself. You want to be like God. You want to keep your eyes on the false and fleeting joys in front of you instead of above "where true joys are found."[23]

The Holy Spirit wants you to be like God as well. But what is God like? The LORD "is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love."[24] As this is where the Holy Spirit wants you to go, He inspired James to write similar words of encouragement, "Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger."[25]

How can you make this happen? You can't. Only the Holy Spirit can. The Holy Spirit "will convict the world ... concerning righteousness."[26] Through His conviction concerning sin, He shows that you cannot be righteous without Him. You wouldn't even know what it means to be righteous if it weren't for Him. Jesus says, "He will take what is Mine and declare it to you."[27]

The resurrected and ascended Jesus has given you promises. "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."[28] "I will not leave you as orphans."[29] Even though He is physically in Heaven, He is still among us through the Holy Spirit. How do we know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us? He declares Jesus' words because Jesus has gone to the Father. As St. John encourages us, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. ... Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God."[30] There is no better way to confess that Jesus has come in the flesh that to "take what is [His] and declare it to you."[31] Especially when it comes to His conviction concerning righteousness that leads to a confession of His judgment.

Judgment - Satan has been judged

"He will convict the world … concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."[32] The greatest conviction that the Holy Spirit delivers is the conviction that Satan, the ruler of this world, has been judged. While St. Peter calls Satan a "roaring lion,"[33] St. Paul describes Satan as "the prince of the power of the air."[34] Satan is full of hot air because He has been judged.

Therefore we can praise God through the words of our Old Testament reading this morning, which has become very familiar to us through the Service of Prayer and Preaching:

Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon His name,
make known His deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that His name is exalted.[35]

We praise God because "He brought us forth by the Word of Truth."[36] Therefore we can say in the Small Catechism:

What benefits does Baptism give?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.[37]
How can water do such great things?
Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. ...
He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.[38]

The Holy Spirit is the active force in the Christian's life. As Jesus promises you, "He will guide you into all the Truth."[39] He guides. You follow. You don't get to pick the path to the Truth. There is only one Truth. Jesus Christ.[40]

This is the judgment by which the Holy Spirit convicts the world. Not judgment against people. Satan is judged. He was judged when Jesus died on the cross, descended into Hell and rose from the dead. His head has been crushed.[41] He has been stripped of His power. Not his influence, because you still fall for the same old lie he's been telling since the beginning.

But the Holy Spirit continues to bring you back to Jesus' death and resurrection because there the world has been convicted. Convicted concerning sin. Convicted concerning righteousness. Convicted concerning judgment. All of this conviction because of one event. The Holy Spirit gives you faith that is the victory that overcomes the world.[42] Faith that the world has been convicted. Faith that Jesus has overcome the world. Faith that, as you are in Him and He is in you, He will come back to take you to be with Him.

Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) Amen.


  1. John 16:8
  2. John 16:8-9
  3. Mark 3:29
  4. Mark 16:16
  5. Psalm 66:5
  6. Matthew 5:45
  7. James 1:17
  8. Acts 24:15
  9. Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Ezekiel 24:14
  10. Revelation 21
  11. Revelation 20:15
  12. James 1:17
  13. Malachi 3:6
  14. Hebrews 13:8
  15. Psalm 111:3
  16. John 16:8-10
  17. John 16:7-8
  18. Nicene Creed
  19. John 10:10
  20. Isaiah 12:6
  21. Acts 2:38; cf. John 14:17; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:22; 2 Timothy 1:14; James 4:5
  22. Genesis 3:6
  23. Collect of the Day, Fifth Sunday of Easter
  24. Joel 2:13
  25. James 1:19
  26. John 16:8-10
  27. John 16:14
  28. Matthew 28:20
  29. John 14:18
  30. 1 John 4:1-2
  31. John 16:14
  32. John 16:8-11
  33. 1 Peter 5:8
  34. Ephesians 2:2
  35. Isaiah 12:4
  36. James 1:18
  37. SC IV II
  38. SC IV III
  39. John 16:13
  40. John 14:6
  41. Genesis 3:15
  42. 1 John 5:4-5; cf. John 16:33; 1 John 4:4